Practice Equipment for Agility Students

16 Jun 2007Steve Schwarz

There was a discussion on the Agile Teach email list about the importance of agility students practicing outside of class and approaches for giving them access to agility equipment. I have some additional ideas that might be interesting to agility instructors.

Some clever instructors on the list include the cost of two PVC jumps in the initial agility class fee so students can at least practice some jumping sequences at home. (After all you only need One Jump to learn all agility handling maneuvers). But what about the other types of equipment?

In my opinion the next most important piece of equipment for students are weave poles. Having regular access to weaves is especially important when a dog is learning to weave. It is extremely unusual for a dog to learn to weave with access only during weekly classes.

Next on the list of equipment would be any of the pieces of contact equipment. Fast and reliable contacts also require regular practice. This can be especially difficult in group classes when students might need different height contacts as their dogs progress.

Some Ideas

So how can agility instructors help students get their practice in? I’ve come up with three categories: practice at the training site, selling equipment to students and leasing equipment to students.

Private Training at the Facility

One idea would be to provide private or group ring rental time for student practice. This might be difficult since the times when students would probably like to practice could also be the times when instructors would like to hold classes. Of course if the facility has the space or equipment to do both this works even in that case. I used to do this with Milo and Mr. Peabody before I had space for my own equipment. It does take a lot of dedication on the student’s part to regularly seek out ring rental.

Providing “station” type of ring rental could also work. I’m imagining baby gate separated sections of a ring around various pieces of equipment. That way there is at least a psychological barrier around say the weaves, A Frame, Dog Walk, etc. and multiple dogs could practice at once.

Depending on the facility, it might also be possible to put some types of obstacles in separate areas away from traditional teaching areas where practicing could be done without interfering with classes or other practices.

Selling Equipment

The inclusion of equipment with the class fee falls into this category. Depending on the amount of equipment, this could become expensive. Of course, the more equipment/expensive the more likely students are to be serious about their investment in both time and money.

I’ve heard of dog clubs that have equipment building parties where the club buys the parts in bulk and helps students build their own jumps and weave poles.

Another approach would be to build and sell more than just jumps to the students. Of course the issue is really cost. Weaves are the next least expensive piece of equipment that has the most benefit for students.

Leasing Equipment

I also thought that an enterprising trainer might consider offering equipment leasing (and then they can also periodically sell used equipment). A major problem leasing equipment is the equipment cost. There aren’t many trainers or training facilities that could afford to have, say, 20 sets of each type of equipment for rental. Another issue would be students who take the equipment and then fail to keep up with their payments; tracking them down and collecting either the money or the equipment could become a headache.

This company or trainer might be able to work with a company that makes equipment and arrange for buying or leasing equipment at a discount (especially due to the volume). A critical question is how much would students pay to lease a set of professional quality weave poles? $15-$20 a month? A set of poles could pay for themselves in a year or less. Channel or Weave-A-Matic weave poles would take longer to pay off. Contact equipment would be even more expensive.

There is probably also a larger business possible in this space; agility equipment rental to individuals (there already are firms that lease entire rings of equipment for agility trials). This might require rentals over a large area (a state or even a region of the country) in order to become profitable. There would also be a sizable initial capital outlay, although working with a manufacturer could involve sharing the costs. The shipping costs, probably freight, could be expensive but the leasing company would have to figure that into their business plan. Of course lease-to-own would be another possibility to consider.

I’m curious what you think about these ideas. As a student would you lease equipment if you didn’t have it already? Lease to own?

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